Island Hopping Guide from Koh Samui, Thailand
The ultimate island destination in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is part of an archipelago of 69 islands and the third-largest island in Thailand. There is something intrinsically special about Samui that resonates deep inside as you experience the simple pleasure of lounging on white-sand beaches anywhere on the island.
Koh Samui inspires chilled-out and chic vacation stays and while the island boasts fabulous restaurants, things to do and places to visit, it is the natural riches that really are truly unforgettable. Looking out to a sunrise or a sunset from your villa infinity pool after a day trip exploring islands from Samui is a dream come true.
Since island-hopping is a must-do part of the Koh Samui adventure, here are some of the most memorable expeditions you can take.
Koh Madsum & Koh Taen
Just a 10-minute speedboat ride off Koh Samui’s southern coast lies the small isle of Koh Madsum and the slightly larger island of Koh Taen. Both are perfect little island-hopping jaunts that take you to snorkelling paradise adventures where you can relax and enjoy a picnic on the beach. The waters here are even clearer than Samui’s and you can spot colorful marine life, including corals. Koh Taen is home to a tiny village with beautiful natural surroundings. Meanwhile, Koh Madsum has lovely white-sand beaches and is a popular chill-out spot for locals too. You can also take a long-tail boat from Koh Samui since the islands are so near.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
An hour off the coast of Koh Samui lies the magnificent Ang Thong National Marine Park; a glorious marinescape of turquoise waters dotted with 42 islands. Tours stop off just outside the park to snorkel before heading to the main island, Koh Tua Walap, which translates as Sleeping Cow Island. Here there is chance to kayak, snorkel close to the beach, and relax in green surroundings watching the spider monkeys at play jumping from treetop to treetop. There is also a walk up to a pretty viewpoint too.
Another notable island is Koh Mae Koh, or Mother Island, which is famed for its breathtaking Emerald Lake. A walk up steps and across walkways takes you through a lush landscape to a viewpoint over the salt-water lagoon which is a striking green-blue due to the natural limestone. Looking the other way, you can take in a panoramic view of the beach and beyond; a mesmerizing picture-perfect scene that really captures the seductive beauty of Thailand.
Other islands that jut out dramatically include Monkey Island, and the boat trip itself is part of the adventure too as you glide past this almost-mystical world of islands. If there is one island-hopping trip to take off Koh Samui, Ang Thong National Marine park is the ultimate and best appreciated with a tour that is more exclusive rather than being packed in with too many other tourists.
So-called Turtle island, Koh Tao is the island to head to for scuba diving and snorkelling and is a two-hour speedboat ride from the north of Koh Samui. The beaches are stunningly white, and the island is attractively hilly, creating an destination that promises to be an absolutely must-visit experience. Koh Tao is a chilled-out island and whilst not as ‘castaway’ as it once was, when it was first ‘discovered’ in the 1980s, it still exudes the best Thailand has to offer in terms of tropical island idylls.
The marinelife is incredibly diverse in the waters around Koh Tao and you can spot black-tip reef sharks if you snorkel in the aptly named Shark Bay. Whilst turtles are in decline, conservation efforts are underway, and to really appreciate the island in all its glory you can hike up to John Suwan Viewpoint to get a bird’s eye view of an island stunner and divers’ paradise.
Koh Nang Yuan
Before reaching Koh Tao, a 90-minute speedboat ride north lies Koh Nang Yuan which attracts snorkelers and island-hopping fans. The trio of isles, with striking sand bars that link the islets, are picture-postcard spectacular and you can walk up to a great viewpoint for jealousy-inducing Instagram shots. The islands are popular yet small, so chances are you will not be alone, but snorkelling in the three lagoons is divine.
Just offshore is the well-known dive and snorkel hotspot, Japanese Garden, on the east side of Koh Nang Yuan, which is shallow enough for snorkelling and reaches a depth of 15 meters. There is a dive shop on the island too, so equipment at the ready to explore the coral and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, including eagle rays if you are lucky enough to spy them in the clear waters.
Koh Pha Ngan
Renowned for its Full Moon parties, there is more to Thailand’s fifth largest island than pure hedonism. Koh Pha Ngan is a lush rainforest-clad, mountainous island that has exquisitely long beaches and a laid-back vibe, giving the whole island a dramatic landscape that makes it a joy to visit.
One great plus point is that the island is relatively close to Koh Samui, meaning it can be reached by speedboat in under an hour. This short trip takes you to a water-world of incredible dive sites, not far from Koh Tao. Koh Pha Ngan has it all in the way of activities too and you can enjoy watersports such as paddle boarding and windsurfing as well as relaxing in the warm waters swimming and snorkelling of course.
Bottle markers guide you on a walk through the jungle to the secluded Bottle Beach and the island is home to fantastic viewpoints as well as treks to waterfalls. Head to Haad Rin Beach when it is not a party weekend if you do not want to be amongst thousands of revellers and simply sit and contemplate all that is right with an island-hopping vacation in one of the world’s most luxuriously beautiful locations, the fabulous island of Koh Samui.